Nancy Sanders wants to reward someone who has conquered difficult circumstances and isn't looking for a handout. In her hometown of Troy, Illinois, she finds the perfect candidate. Born to a teenage mother, Jeff spent his early years in poverty, even living out of a car at one point before ending up in a foster home in Troy. In his sophomore year at Triad High School, Jeff joined the track team, eventually setting four school records and earning a full scholarship to Southern Illinois University. At the same time, he worked 20 hours a week and landed on the honor roll more than once. Jeff is now a top runner on the SIU team, an impressive accomplishment for a freshman at a Division 1 school.
Jeff's former teachers and coaches praise his work ethic, determination and humility. "It's one thing to be an outstanding athlete, but when you're also a good person in the community, it just makes it that much better," Jeff's high school track coach says.
Jeff is simply overwhelmed when Nancy presents him with her $1,000 from the Pay It Forward Challenge, plus another $700 from friends and family and a $300 gift card for American Eagle clothing store. "Through every step of your life you have taken the right path," Nancy tells him. "I think that's phenomenal, and you need to be rewarded for it."